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This time of year begs for warm, comforting, hearty dishes that come together quickly. Who has time to spend in the kitchen when there’s two feet of snow to shovel? The beauty of minestrone soup is that it’s never the same twice and doesn’t get boring, at least not in our house. The basic formula does not vary- beans, vegetables, broth. The specifics, however, tend to change as the wind blows.
Using the Year of Slow Cooking recipe as my guide, I vary what will go in the soup each time. Kids can help prep the vegetables, even choosing which to add, and help measure and pour the ingredients. Even if you put the soup together after your kids have already left for school, they can chop the night before to make your morning smoother. My kids love peeling and slicing carrots, and who can say no to that?
I love zucchini in minestrone, but it’s not something I tend to have in the refrigerator in the dead of March. So we did without, and that was fine. This particular time around, we were shortly post-snowstorm, and I was dipping into the bottom of the crisper and back of the pantry to make dinner happen. I used red kidney beans, chickpea (garbanzo) beans, a large can of diced tomatoes, lots and lots of chopped carrots and celery, some diced garlic, and dried onion flakes. Unlike the original recipe, I use chicken broth rather than beef, and canned beans instead of dried. An hour before serving, I added frozen, thawed green beans, and five minutes before serving, a few cups of fresh baby spinach. I find the fresh spinach is so much better in the soup that frozen, as called for in the original recipe. In an effort to keep the carbs lower, we skipped the pasta, but did serve the soup with crusty bread and Parmesan cheese.
We enjoyed the soup after a chilly day outside, and had enough leftover for two days of lunch. It provides an awesome way to get a ton of vegetables and lean protein. Naturally gluten and dairy free, vegetarian, and low in fat, it makes the perfect meal. Everyone feels genuinely happy to see this soup for dinner, which is a nice compliment to the recipe. While the temps are still low, make your family a warm and healthy dinner that comes together quickly, and spend your time making memories instead. Share your favorite wintertime recipes with our readers, below.
I grew up in New York. We serve chicken for dinner, and waffles for breakfast (unless you’re having breakfast for dinner, then waffles may grace the table). Chicken and waffles together, though? I don’t get it. My husband, the meat eater, totally gets it. So much so that he ordered it in a restaurant recently. He loved it, of course, and thus began his quest to recreate it at home.
Chicken and Waffles
Our standby waffle recipe comes from the culinary goddess Silvana. They’re crispy, fluffy, perfect-every-time waffles that just so happen to be gluten-free. I make her pancake/waffle mix in bulk and keep it in a jar, ready to go. If you’re gluten-free, you can’t go wrong with her recipe, or substitute your own family favorite.
There are as many fried chicken recipes floating around as there are, well, chickens. Quite honestly, I wasn’t home and have no idea which recipe my husband used. Unless he wrote it down, he probably doesn’t know, either. He did use chicken breasts, to keep it healthy (well, healthier; it’s still fried chicken after all). If you’re gluten-free, fried chicken is best made at home, substituting the proper flour. So, you can google a recipe and decide if you want it baked or fried, buy your chicken already made if you so please, or steal it from your neighbor’s ranch- that’s up to you. I can tell you that marinating it in buttermilk first leads to it being extra juicy. We did this, as I always keep buttermilk powder in the fridge for impromptu cooking. I love having the powder on hand so we can whip up pancakes or other culinary delights without worrying about what to do with the extra buttermilk in the carton. If you’re dairy-free, use any non-dairy milk and sour the milk with a tablespoon of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar.
I like my waffles with eggs, most preferably a spinach or broccoli and cheese omelet. My husband giddily piled his chicken, waffles, and omelet all together, as you see here. I ate my waffles and omelet as I normally do, thank you very much, but did try the chicken to be polite. It was good, but I still can’t figure out why I’d want to eat it along with breakfast for dinner. To each his own. If you have some adventurous eaters in your home, give chicken and waffles a try. Something different can be fun, so why not?
Our Kid’s Yoga Pose Series ends with Snake Pose. This backbend feels great to kids and adults alike, but you need to follow good form to avoid compressing the discs in your spine. Many people immediately straighten their arms because the abdominal stretch feels so good, but then they experience sharp pain in the lower back. To do this pose correctly, follow these steps:
- Lie belly down, and place your hands beside your chest.
- Lift your kneecaps off the ground slightly.
- Pull your hands back towards your feet to create length in the front of the body.
- As you pull your hands back, shimmy side to side and slowly lift your chest off the ground.
- Come up as high as is comfortable without straightening your arms.
Snake Pose offers many benefits:
- improves posture
- increases spinal mobility
- stretches chest, lungs, shoulders and abdominals
- firms glutes and back muscles
- soothes digestive organs
My favorite recipes are the ones that can easily be gluten free (or not) will little modification. I find these types of meals more accessible and well-liked. A friend just recently found out she has Celiac Disease and became gluten free. Chatting with her about favorite cookbooks, resources, and meal ideas got me nostalgic for those early days when the impossible-seeming transition loomed ahead. Even though it’s been years for us, it’s still fun to discover something new. She shared this recipe after trying it out with approving results, so I decided to make it for my family. Hearing we were making Chinese food, my older daughter asked to make lo mein, and my younger one wanted to make her famous honey carrots. Who can turn down kids who want to help in the kitchen?
Chinese Food Night
The blogger designed her honey chicken recipe as gluten free (cornstarch rather than flour, and gluten-free soy sauce) but it tasted no different than regular Chinese food, and would appeal to anyone who enjoys this type of dish. My husband was home to clean and cube the chicken (my least favorite part). Meanwhile, my older daughter prepared the glaze for the chicken, and then worked on lo mein. Our favorite lo mein recipe comes from the original Gluten Free on a Shoestring cookbook. For both of the dishes above, we substitute coconut aminos for half of the soy sauce, since it has less sodium and we try to consume minimal soy. Finally, my little one worked on the honey carrots, which come from her favorite kids’ cookbook. Other than my helping cut the carrots into coins using a sharp knife, this is one she was able to do independently. They come out well, and she’s always pleased to have made the dish herself.
This dinner took a bit of time to prepare. None of it is particularly hard, but the chicken has to be browned and sauteed in its glaze, the lo mein sauce needs to cook down, and carrots have to be steamed. Fortunately, all four of us were in the kitchen and working together. Everything tasted great, so it was worth the wait. More importantly, there’s such value to opportunities for kids to cook along with their parents, and we had lots of fun. Give your feedback on the honey chicken, or share your favorite family dinner ideas with our readers.
This pose works very well with young children who like to “flap their wings” and tell me what color butterfly they are. But young or older, everyone will find relief from tight inner thighs with this seated posture. Do Butterfly Pose on your floor, couch or bed, and enjoy these benefits:
- stretches inner thighs
- opens hips
- improves posture
- relieves back pain
- increases lower-body flexibility
Sitting at a desk at school most of the day can result in tight hip flexors and rounded shoulders. This can lead to poor posture, muscular imbalance and lower back pain. Luckily, Unicorn Pose is very effective in stretching the hip flexors along with the whole front of the body, and it’s fun for kids (and adults) to do. Try this pose once a day with your kids. If it bothers your back knee, try doing the pose on a thick blanket or towel.
Unicorn Pose offers many benefits:
- improves postures
- relieves back pain
- opens front of body
- develops focus
- increases balance
Stuck inside during this cold weather, I decided to clean out my pantry. Noticing the boxes of lasagna leftover from Christmas (our main lasagna-eating time) I wanted to use them up but make something different. This sat in the back of my mind until I was making my shopping list. I suddenly felt the desire to roll up the lasagna noodles with cheese and spinach. Lasagna is something I grew up eating, watched my grandma make, and can do from memory. I decided to go sans recipe and see how it turned out.
Spinach Lasagna Rolls
8 lasagna noodles
8 oz. bag of baby spinach
8 oz. part-skim ricotta cheese
8 oz. part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
2 c. pasta sauce
Boil lasagna noodles al dente since they will be cooked further in the oven. Rinse under cold water, and let cool to room temperature. Get the kids involved, as rest of the steps are simple and require no tools. Cover the bottom of a 9×13 baking pan with a layer of pasta sauce. Working on a clean, flat surface, spread out each lasagna noodle. Divide the ricotta cheese among the eight noodles. Spread the ricotta cheese evenly on the entire noodle. Layer spinach leaves on top of ricotta cheese. Sprinkle shredded mozzarella on top of spinach. Holding firm to the end of the noodle, roll each one individually. Spoon additional sauce onto the tops and sides of each roll. Cover with foil, and bake for 30 min at 350, until sauce and cheesy are bubbly. Cool slightly, and serve. Add a tossed salad and your meal is complete!
We encourage everyone in our family to keep moving even if it means just getting on the treadmill for 20 minutes. It’s so much easier to get kids moving if they’re doing something fun. I chose an up dog/down dog flow for this installment in our Yoga for Kids series because it’s an allover body exercise that feels good and is enjoyable to do. Get on the floor with your child and do this pose flow that offers many benefits:
- encourages blood flow
- stimulates organs
- relieves sinus stuffiness
- improves posture
- stretches entire front and back of body
- builds core and upper body strength
- develops flexibility
Kids learn so much about us by what we take time to do. Do we show them how we appreciate and take care of our wonderful bodies? Spend just one minute a day on the floor with your child doing a yoga pose, and not only will you both will receive healthful benefits, but you’ll be setting a powerful example.
Here’s the second post in a series to help you and your child find more strength, flexibility, balance and focus. This week, we look at Slide, also known as Reverse Plank. When performed regularly, this posture offers many benefits:
- increases strength in the back, glutes, hamstrings, calves and triceps
- improves core strength
- promotes discipline
- develops balance and focus
- opens and stretches chest and shoulders
Now that cold temps and snow have finally arrived, soups, stews, and chili call like sirens from the kitchen. I’ve shared my turkey chili recipe before, and it’s one that we always enjoy. I typically make a double batch, freeze half for the future, and all’s well. I came across a different recipe this week that looked delicious, and decided to try it. My family was surprised when they heard what I was making, “Chicken chili? Why chicken?” Yet afterwards, we were all glad I tried something new.
Southwest Chicken Chili
Crockpot cooking offers a great opportunity for kids to help with meal preparation. Especially in a recipe as simple as this one, ingredients are measured, poured, and mixed. Kids can help with every step, and other than using a can opener, there’s nothing sharp or tricky involved. As always, the beauty of slow cooking becomes evident when you return home from a busy day to find dinner waiting, without the mess of last minute prep.
The biggest difference between this recipe and the one I usually make (other than the chicken) was the addition of the ranch powder and cream cheese. We make our own ranch powder and keep a jar of it in the refrigerator (using this great recipe), and it worked beautifully. The only change I made to the chili was to use salsa in place of the diced tomatoes, and I omitted the chili powder as a result. I used two frozen chicken breasts, and cooked it on low for eight hours. We ate it with shredded cheese, a dollop of sour cream, and some crumbled tortilla chips, and it was delicious. Really, really good. I will most definitely make this again.
Share your favorite crockpot recipe with our readers, especially ones suitable for kids in the kitchen. Keep warm! Snow’s on its way.